YMCA champions young people in UN General Assembly week in New York

Date: 01 October 2022

YMCA wants young people’s voices heard, whether in UN General Assembly week in New York, or anywhere, anytime. YMCA Director Partnerships Kathleen Elsig was there, and speaking for young people and the Movement.

“No one in New York for United Nations General Assembly week was left in any doubt that there are 1.8 billion young people aged 15-24 in the world today, forming a quarter of its population”, she writes. “Young people are shaping social and economic development, challenging social norms and values. They are building – and they are – the world’s future. Of the 10.9 billion people who are projected to be born in the rest of this century, 85% will be born in Africa and Asia, and 71% in what are currently low or lower-middle income countries. As UN Foundation analysis has shown, ‘the underrepresentation of the future… is compounded by the inequalities of the present’. ”

YMCA played a part in the UN Foundation’s Unlock the Future of Learning event on 19 September, calling for action to build formal and non-formal education systems that provide everyone with the skills they need to thrive in the future. The event was led by young people drawing on their mobilisation in communities, countries, and internationally and building on their proposals and demands for change. The youth-led panels covered themes such as Education for Climate Justice, Gender Transformative Education, and Youth Solutions. The World YMCA is an active member of the Coalition and signatory of the Unlock Declaration, and was chosen by its Big 6 peers to announce it exactly a year ago. The Declaration outlines the Coalition’s intention to join forces with and for all young people and future generations.  Within the UN Foundation event, the Big 6 coalition panel highlighted activities led by young people including in YMCAs around the world.

YMCA joined discussions in New York on 23 September on building coalitions, driving investments, and unlocking opportunities for a youth-led transition into the green economy, as part of Generation Unlimited’s Global Leadership Council. The conversation convened leaders from governments, businesses, foundations, multilaterals, civil society organisations and youth from around the world. Co-hosted by Microsoft Philanthropies, the meeting between public, private, and youth partners saw dignitaries and young people putting their heads together to explore ways that young people can take the lead in moving towards a greener, more sustainable future.

Opening the session, Global Chairman of PwC and Co-Chair of Generation Unlimited’s Global Leadership Council, Bob Moritz, stressed the importance of bringing youth to the table as drivers of change, noting that youth skilling and social justice will be a necessary component to building a greener future. “As we work towards a climate-resilient, more sustainable future, the focus has to also include social justice. When properly planned and managed, and by working together to skill and reskill talent, the greening of economies will generate good jobs in dynamic, high-growth sectors.”

Ilwad Elman, Director of Programs & Development at the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center and a Global Leadership Council member, used his keynote address to call for ramping up investment, matching resources to rhetoric, and supporting young people to lead the green transition. “More young people are already taking up the torch of climate leadership. And they are already innovating climate action through education, science and technology. But we need to support them more (…) and this can only be done by investing in bottom-up initiatives and giving youth space for political participation.”